14. The Sub-Mariner and the Merciless Puppet Master

Fantastic Four Issue Fourteen (14)

Issue Fourteen, May 1963

Bah! Your false bravado does not impress me! And now, let me show you my prisoner — the one you foolishly came to rescue!”

SUMMARY
The Fantastic Four return to earth to the adulation of their admiring public. Back at their base, Sue pines for her crush, Namor. Meanwhile, the Puppet Master has been released from a sanitarium and wastes no time in attempting his revenge. He decides to use Namor as his instrument and whittles a small statue of him and he takes Sue prisoner. The FF go looking for her and eventually encounter Namor. They battle long enough to allow the Puppet Master’s submarine to wander into the tentacles of a giant squid, the stress of which releases his hold on Namor, who releases the Fantastic Four.

COMMENTARY
It’s another month and another guest appearance by Namor, The Submariner — his fourth in the 10 issues since his (re)debut.

This one is a much more interesting than the last, since it also features the return of the Puppet Master, last seen presumed dead. It is he who sculpts a figure of Namor in order to destroy the FF, in a roundabout way. Interestingly, he first thinks of the Mole Man and the Skrulls as his tools of destruction, but passes them over as too weak. It’s the first that we’ve heard about either as active characters since their first appearances, so the creators wish us to know that they’re still in play. The fact that there is almost no way that the Puppet Master would know about them can be overlooked.

“Cured?” This kind of response isn’t a massive red flag to a trained mental and physical health professional? Even a “seedy” one?

Fantastic Four Issue Fourteen (14)

Kirby’s visuals still delight

There’s not much else to say about this issue. Although enjoyable, it is rather by-the-numbers. Perhaps it’s notable that ‘the numbers’ hadn’t been solidly established yet, but then again, it doesn’t completely thrill. After the high quality of the last couple issues, it doesn’t hurt to have a more humble tale.

A final comment should be made on the, not to put it too strongly, misogyny of this issue. It really is appalling how Sue is being treated.

“After giving Sue the report to type, and telling her to ‘get cracking on that laundry’…” 

When the FF return to Earth, she is seen patting her hair before going in front of the cameras. When the boys decide to get a bit of kip after their travels, Sue says that she’ll do some tidying up. It turns out that she’s not tidying up, but looking for Namor (good for her), but Reed only discovers this when he goes to find her so she can type up his notes on the moon landing to NASA. “I am unable to win my most cherished goal,’ Reed laments. “I am unable to conquer the heart of the woman I love!” Well, maybe if you treated her like a woman and not a hired servant, you would make a little headway there, champ.

Once again, Sue is tied up and held prisoner, which induces the men of the group to go in after her. There’s no excuse for this kind of ingrained anti-feminism, even in the sixties. If it’s not creating the stigma, it’s certainly reinforcing it that carries on right through today — the perception that women aren’t empowered in comics, even super-powered ones. They certainly aren’t in this one.

Loyalties? Has anyone looked into the possibility that Reed could be controlling Sue’s mind? He looks pretty damn suspicious in this panel.

EVALUATION 5/10

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